Marrakech was one of my favourite places I visited during my 8 months in Europe (…even though it’s not in Europe). Morocco’s best-known city is hugely popular for a reason. The Medina blends history with rich culture, delicious food and beautiful scenes. And the shopping is brilliant!
But many people are scared off by horror stories of food poisoning, stolen purses or other negative experiences.
Those bad things may have happened, but you shouldn’t let them scare you off. I’ve heard more stories of stolen items outside the Vatican alone than in Marrakech. Yet women solo travel to Rome seemingly constantly!
But we’re not talking about Rome. We’re talking about Marrakech.
So, is Marrakech safe for solo female travellers?
Marrakech is unique compared to every other city I visited in my 2017/2018 trip, because it has a huge police presence.
You won’t see them, but they’re there.
On top of uniformed officers, Marrakech has a massive number of undercover cops whose specific job is to make civilians feel safe. They are mostly plain-clothed men who look like beggars, sitting against closed doors. There they can observe merchants who could become too insistent and prevent handsy passersby.
But they don’t stop all crime.
That’s just not realistic.
A purse snatcher isn’t their priority. Making you feel safe to walk down the street is.
I’d much rather have them focus on keeping the city’s atmosphere warm and vibrant than for their focus to be on small time pick pockets.
The People of Marrakech
Although Marrakech is a huge tourist centre for Morocco, there is a sense of community amongst its people.
That community has come to include the tourists.
The people of Marrakech care about their city. They want it to thrive and they know tourism is a part of that. So, they want tourists to have the best possible experience.
On my first day in Marrakech, alone and jet lagged from a bumpy flight from Spain, I ventured into the Medina.
I didn’t know what to expect. My mom had planned the trip, so I’d done almost no research on the city I’d be spending two weeks in.
I wasn’t prepared for the kindness of everyone I met.
Shop keepers called out, as they do in any busy market town. But they asked about my day. They didn’t demand my attention or comment on my body. And they wanted to chat, even if I wasn’t buying anything.
It took me 30 minutes to make it one block!
(I was being too Canadian and having full conversations with everyone.)
Later, someone noted that my thin purse strap could be easily cut and told me to wear it beneath my jacket.
The Not So Good
Not everyone in Marrakech is this kind. There are, of course, those who want to profit from tourists.
Most scammers offer to lead tourists through the market to their destination but take them on a circuitous route. They can demand payment or take tourists to dangerous, deserted areas.
Others are just plain rude. My mom got turned off Morocco early on by a vendor at the night market who refused to let her look at the neighbouring cart’s menu.
Pick pockets are a big problem in Marrakech. They target tour groups or foreign looking people travelling through the tightly packed markets. The threat of a cut purse strap wasn’t a joke – many people have had this happen and the thief disappears into the crowd before the loss is noticed.
Those bad eggs exist in every city, especially ones full of tourists. I don’t see them as a reason to label a whole city or country unsafe.
They’re usually avoidable, especially if you’re smart about how you travel.
Safety Precautions for Marrakech
So how can you stay safe in Marrakech?
The night I arrived, the owner of our Riad (Riad Les Clos Des Arts) sat me down to go over how to stay safe in the city. This isn’t common practise – none of my four other accommodations in the country gave any kind of similar speech.
His tips helped a lot, but I learned some extra things on my own.
Consider these tips to make you feel safer in Marrakech:
1. Be Considerate of Your Clothing.
Morocco is a modest country; however, Marrakech is very accepting of most wardrobes. You don’t need to cover your head or your shoulders. But being covered helps. Men ogle women in provocative clothing – that is, anything revealing or tight fitting. I stopped wearing my leggings two days in after too many long looks that made me uncomfortable. Once I switched to baggy t-shirts or tied a sweater around my waist to cover myself more, I didn’t have a problem.
2. Be Careful with Bags.
Like I said, pick pockets and purse cutters are a problem. If you carry a purse, keep a hand on it at all times. Wear backpacks on your front or with a lock on the zippers. I wore my small purse underneath my jacket, since I visited in the winter. Wearing a money belt or fanny pack are common choices in Marrakech. Don’t carry too much money. Keep your valuables, like your passport, back at your accommodation in case your bag does get stolen.
3. Wear Rings or Headphones.
A lot of articles suggest that unmarried women wear a fake wedding ring to prevent unwanted attention. I don’t see how that would help. My mom, who has an actual wedding ring, was pestered just as often as I was, regardless of my bare fingers. What actually helped was wearing my headphones. I often didn’t have them plugged into anything. Just having the earbuds in with the cord tucked into my pocket dissuaded store owners from calling out to me (and helped me get down the street without feeling the need to chat with them all).
4. Know Your Route.
One of the reasons people get scammed by fake guides is because they don’t know their way through the city. Take a walking tour to get familiar with the winding roads of the Medina. Download an offline map on your phone and use it to get around. Find landmarks that can help you find your way.
5. Know the Culture.
Women in Morocco behave differently than you might be used to. Women are not supposed to look men in the eyes unless they are flirting. This isn’t expected of tourists, but it can help to know. To kindly say “no” to someone, place your hand over your heart and give a slight bow. I used this a lot with shopkeepers when I was browsing stores. Be prepared to haggle. It’s not considered rude in Morocco – it’s required.
6. Avoid Tap Water.
Stick with bottled water to prevent you getting sick. If you’re worried about food, ask your accommodation for recommendations on good places to eat. If you have a sensitive stomach, stick to cooked food. Cleaning practices for food in Morocco may be different than your home country. If you’re not used to them, they can upset your stomach. Some food is also washed in tap water, which – if not cooked off – could cause some stomach distress for sensitive stomachs.
7. Use Common Sense.
A lot of people have trouble in cities because they do stupid things. Don’t go down dark alleys alone. Don’t wave money around like a mad person. Don’t pick fights with people. Be respectful, aware of your surroundings and keep a good head on your shoulders. It’s easy to stay safe when you are sensible.
8. Hire a Companion.
If you feel uncomfortable wandering the city alone, hire someone to accompany you. Marrakesh has tour guides, shopping guides and personal guards who will happily escort you through the city. And, like everything else in Morocco, they’re not very expensive. Spend the extra money to give yourself peace of mind if that’s what you need.
Is Marrakech Safe?
Marrakech is a safe destination for solo female travellers if you are smart and sensible.
I spent four days by myself in the city before my mom joined me. During that time, I made a few mistakes and learned ways to feel more comfortable. But I never felt unsafe.
The dangers of Marrakech were the same as most of the European countries I visited. You can’t drink the tap water. You shouldn’t walk alone in dark alleys at night (really you should never be doing this). You should pay attention to what you’re doing.
Most of us solo female travellers already know all these things.
My specific recommendations for Marrakech are to wear baggy clothing (make sure your chest and your butt are concealed) and to wear headphones to give you a way to ignore shopkeepers.
Marrakech was a beautiful city that I remember so fondly. It was bright and full of life, with amazing tourist and local opportunities to explore.
I baked with local women and learned about their lives. I explored the desert (far outside Marrakech, but the tour started in the city, so I count it!). I was scrubbed within an inch of my life at a Hammam. I wandered through fresh leather stores, viewed handmade Berber carpets and drank my weight in fresh mint tea.
It was the best city I visited in Morocco. It’s one of the top three places I went to on my 8-month trip.
Don’t let false threats of danger hold you back from visiting this truly brilliant city.
Have you ever felt unsafe visiting a popular tourist location?